Stop The Presses!

Human Rights Organization Appeals to UN on Behalf of Imprisoned Pussy Riot Member, Fearing for Her Life

Stop The Presses!

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Pussy Riot supporters protesting in London (Photo: Dan Kitwood)

By Laura Ferreiro

Imprisoned Pussy Riot member Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova recently went on a hunger strike to call attention to the inhumane conditions women face in the Russian prison where she's serving a two-year sentence. She and two of her bandmates were convicted of hooliganism for performing a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in 2012 and for reportedly denouncing Russian president Vladimir Putin.

On September 23, Tolokonnikova published an open letter describing the shocking conditions she and her fellow inmates face each day, which was published in The Guardian.

"My brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day," she wrote. "From 7.30am to 12.30am. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night."

"I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions," she added. "I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves."

As retribution for writing the passionate letter, Tolokonnikova – who has since been hospitalized due to her weakened condition and who has now ended her hunger strike because she's too frail to continue without serious health risks – is reportedly being kept in seclusion. Her family, friends and lawyers have been prevented from visiting her.

As a result, human rights organization The Voice Project has appealed to the UN Human Rights Commission to intervene on her behalf. In a letter addressed to the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture, they stated that they fear for her safety and for her life. They demanded that "the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service grant Ms. Tolokonnikova's family and legal representatives access to her in accordance with relevant human rights laws and standards."

As of now, her family and lawyers have not had any contact with her for more than a week, and are afraid that she's suffering reprisals as a result of her exposé about prisoner abuse at the camp.

Prison officials have denied Tolokonnikova's allegations, but several prisoners have corroborated her claims.

Artists around the world including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Madonna have spoken out in support of Pussy Riot and called for their release.

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